By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Brooklyn, New York at Barclays Center
[Q1] Still shots from SummerSlam recapped Finn Balor becoming the first WWE Universal Champion… The Raw opening video aired… Pyro shot off of the stage…
Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton were on commentary. Cole noted that there were 15,932 fans in attendance. They addressed the Finn Balor injury and showed footage of him being powerbombed into the barricade by Seth Rollins. Graves noted that Balor popped his shoulder back into place and continued the match.
Cole said Balor even got up and appeared on Good Morning America on Monday morning, but the pain worsened and he had to get an MRI. Saxton noted Mick Foley’s announcement that Balor had opted to relinquish the championship due to the injury.
Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley stood in the ring and welcomed viewers to Raw. Foley introduced Balor, who walked out with his arm in a sling and the WWE Universal Championship draped over his other shoulder. Balor was all smiles and the crowd raised their arms to his music even though he was unable to join them.
Balor took the mic and chants of “Finn” and “You deserve it” broke out. Balor said the championship represents a lifetime of sacrifice (as a fan held up a “Red Belt Sucks” sign). He said it also shows that if you believe in yourself, you can do anything.
“But there was a sacrifice,” Balor said. “I want to thank the WWE for this opportunity. I want to thank all the talent in the back. I want to thank Seth Rollins for giving me the match of my life. But, most importantly, I want to thank all of you.” The fans chanted “Thank you, Finn.” Balor said he should be thanking the fans.
Balor said that he has to relinquish the title for now. The fans chanted “no” and Balor paused. He said that once he is healthy, the title is the first thing that he is coming for. Foley took the title and was booed. Foley held up Balor’s good arm and the fans cheered. On commentary, Cole said Balor would always be known as the first ever WWE Universal Champion.
As Balor was heading up the stage, a smiling Seth Rolliins made his entrance. Rollins stopped and looked at Balor and laughed before walking past him. Balor glared at Rollins and remained on the stage. In the ring, Rollins hugged Stephanie.
“Really, what a shame,” Rollins said. “But let’s not live in the past, now we know who the true winner at last night’s SummerSlam was, right?” Rollins said this is a celebration. Rollins said he and Stephanie have had some great celebrations in the past. Rollins put over the “beautiful” title belt and asked for another championship celebration, referring to himself as the true champion. Sami Zayn’s music played and he made his entrance and joined everyone in the ring.
[Q2] Chris Jericho made his entrance and also headed to the ring. Jericho pleaded with Stephanie off-mic and told Foley to shut up. Kevin Owens made his entrance and was still chummy with Jericho. Enzo Amore and Big Cass came out together to a big ovation. Roman Reigns made his entrance to boos.
Foley said that everyone in the ring is deserving of a championship opportunity. Foley said there would be a series of matches that would culminate next week with the crowning of a new Universal Champion. The fans booed. Stephanie announced Sami Zayn vs. Seth Rollins as the first match. As the wrestlers left the ring, Owens jawed at Zayn, and then Rollins attacked Zayn from behind and ended up kicking him to ringside… [C]
Powell’s POV: So is this a tournament? Two authority figures, yet neither one of them set the record straight. Meanwhile Balor handled the situation well. I like that he was upbeat despite the circumstances, and I also like that he was complimentary of Rollins, and that Rollins didn’t return the favor. Raw is in Houston next week. It’s surely friendlier territory for Reigns than Brooklyn is for whatever that’s worth.
1. Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn in the Universal Championship series. The match was joined in progress coming out of the commercial break. There were dueling chants for Rollins and Zayn. Sami performed a reverse leapfrog while springboarding off the bottom rope. Sami dropped to the mat and held his ankle. The referee gave Zayn time to recover. Zayn wanted to perform a running dive, but he pulled himself over the top rope and flipped onto Rollins, and came up holding his ankle again.
[Q3] Zayn took a powder and clutched his ankle while Rollins gloated in the ring heading into another break. [C] Zayn went for a Blue Thunder Bomb, but he sold the ankle instead of performing the move. Rollins and Zayn fought for position on the ropes. Zayn performed a sunset flip powerbomb from the ropes for a two count. He immediately held his ankle again.
Graves said that if Zayn wants to have a lengthy career the he should give up now. Rollins went for the Pedigree, but Zayn fought him off and caught him in a pin for a two count. Sami hit the exploder suplex in the corner. He wanted to perform the Helluva Kick, but he was slow because of the ankle and Rollins cut him off.
Rollins applied a hold on the bad ankle. Zayn rolled to his feet and stomped himself free with the other foot. Sami went for another move on one foot, but he couldn’t get Rollins up, and Rollins performed the Pedigree for the win…
Seth Rollins defeated Sami Zayn.
Cole announced he was getting word from the GM’s office about the other matches in the title whatever. They showed a graphic of Brock Lesnar standing over Randy Orton instead. Oops… [C]
Powell’s POV: So I guess this is a tournament? Was WWE inspired by TNA’s recent Bound For Glory Playoff tournament that lacked brackets? The Rollins vs. Zayn match was entertaining with Sami playing his familiar underdog role only this time while doing it on one leg.
SummerSlam still shots aired… Cole once again said they were “having a series of matches” to see who would battle for the title next week…
[Q4] 2. Kevin Owens vs. Neville in the Universal Championship series. Neville performed an early flip splash off the ring apron and onto Owens on the floor. Neville followed up with a running dive onto Owens. Cole said there would be two more matches in the series that would air later in the show. Chris Jericho came out and distracted Neville, allowing Owens to recover and clothesline Neville at ringside before the break. [C]
Powell’s POV: Now I’m left wondering if they are setting up a four-way match for next week. I have no idea why they aren’t being more clear about what these matches mean and how the new champion will be decided. Congrats to Neville for being the one guy who didn’t have to walk to ringside in the opening segment, yet still got a spot in this series.
Neville regained control and performed a corkscrew moonsault for a good near fall. Cole said there was breaking news about the series of matches. Jericho got involved again to buy Owens time. Owens cut off Neville on the ropes, then Owens performed a torture rack into a neckbreaker and scored the pin. Jericho and Neville celebrated together afterward…
Kevin Owens defeated Neville to advance in the series at 8:30.
Cole said there will be a four-way next week to determine the new WWE Universal Champion. It will feature Rollins, Owens, and the winner of the other qualifying matches. Saxton announced Big Cass vs. Rusev, and Roman Reigns vs. Chris Jericho as the other qualifying matches…
Backstage, New Day did their slam dunk gag on some guy backstage… [C] A Did You Know graphic boasted that SummerSlam was the most socially active show last night…
[Q5] New Day made their entrance. Still shots aired of New Day’s SummerSlam match and Jon Stewart’s involvement. Big E spoke about speaking softly and carrying a big stick, and gyrated over a big bowl in the ring. They spoke about being champions for 365 days. Kingston said the fans were responsible for them being champions for a year now because they were vocal during good times and bad times.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson walked out wearing their ring jackets (not the awful lab coats). Anderson said New Day is stupid for celebrating because they lost last night. Gallows said Anderson would decapitate the muscle of New Day when he faces Big E later.
Big E called for enough and said tonight they would show why New Day Rocks. The New Day members danced while Xavier Woods played the trombone, leaving Anderson and Gallows to just stand there. They eventually jawed at them heading into the break while Cole hyped Big E’s return to action for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: I’m having a tough time keeping up on the official rules of WWE fandom. You fans are responsible for New Day because you were vocal in good times and bad, yet Seth Rollins is mad at the fans in Brooklyn for being vocal with their displeasure of the red title belt during his match. WWE should issue an official handbook.
3. Big E (w/Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods) vs. Karl Anderson (w/Luke Gallows). The match was joined in progress and Saxton noted that Big E had been “completely dominant” thus far. Anderson dropkicked the knee of Big E to take control.
[Q6] Gallows got involved. Kingston and Woods ran over and he took them both out. They came back and puled him off the apron and worked him over on the floor. In the ring, Big E came back and won with the Big Ending…
Big E defeated Karl Anderson.
Cole said The Dudley Boyz would say goodbye on Raw tonight. Footage aired of the Dudleys from their September 2, 1999 debut. Cole said the Dudley boys would “call it a career” later in the show…
Powell’s POV: When is the last time that New Day made you laugh? Humor is subjective, but it’s been a while for me. Meanwhile, I’m still hopeful that Bubba is simply splitting off as a singles act.
Additional SummerSlam still shots aired…
Titus O’Neil stood in the ring and tripped over his line while recalling New Day became champions a year ago. He said the Prime Time Players were the champions prior to that. Titus said people always ask him if that was the worst day of his life. Titus said it was actually the best day of his life because he dro pped the dead weight that was Darren Young.
Titus said Young wouldn’t be relevant if it wasn’t for him. He once again how Bob Backlund would make Young great again when he was never great to begin with. Titus blamed Young for not being in the main event or being champion. He called for Young to come out so he could bury him and be done with him once and for all.
When Young’s music didn’t play, Titus blamed Backlund. The fans chanted for Heath Slater. Titus told them he said he wanted Darren. Backlund came out and tried to put TItus in his finisher, but Titus escaped and ended up body slamming him. Young finally ran out and checked on Backlund while asking Titus what was wrong with im. Young picked up Titus and performed Clash of the Titus…
Cole hyped Lesnar vs. Orton details… [C]
Powell’s POV: Will Pruett is lucky. There’s no way that segment will make the abbreviated Hulu version of the show that he watches. Awful. They need a good match or segment or this crowd is going to lose interest and start amusing themselves.
[Q7] Tom Phillips was shown talking with Stephanie McMahon backstage. Cole said viewers would hear from Stephanie about the situation that occurred the night before with Lesnar. A video package on the Lesnar vs. Orton match from SummerSlam aired…
Backstage, Phillips asked Stephanie for her reaction. Stephanie said she agrees with Shane in that Lesnar did cross the line and there will be repercussions…
Powell’s POV: Shouldn’t Stephanie be holding a parade in Brock’s honor given her character’s hatred of her brother? I guess we’ll see where it goes.
Cole recapped footage of Finn Balor giving up the Universal Title due to injury…
4. Rusev (w/Lana) vs. Big Cass (w/Enzo Amore). Lana introduced Rusev before the match. Enzo and Cass delivered some mic work from the floor. Enzo was sure if Bulgaria is east side, west side, or one of the five boroughs. Rusev sold a rib injury suffered the night before against Reigns and Cass was on the offensive heading into the break. [C]
[Q8] Cass threw punches at Rusev’s wrapped ribs in the corner. He set up for the Empire elbow, but Rusev rolled to the floor. Cass followed and ran Rusev into the ring steps. The broadcast team put over how much pain Rusev was in. Graves compared Rusev to Finn Balor by continuing to fight. It didn’t last long. Rusev left the ring, walked up the ramp, and accepted the count-out…
Big Cass defeated Rusev via count-out in 7:40.
Powell’s POV: So it will be Rollins vs. Owens vs. Cass and likely Roman Reigns next week in the four-way. The entire broadcast team was really praising Rusev and talking about how bad his ribs were bothering him. Graves laid it on a little thicker as the color commentator, and Cole and Saxton ended up mocking him for comparing Rusev to Balor.
Backstage, Phillips interviewed Jericho and Owens and asked what happens with the two of them if Jericho beats Roman Reigns. Jericho said he would win and then spoke about how glorious it would be next week go to the finals. Jericho said he’ll make a great Universal Champion. Owens took exception to Jericho claiming he would win. Jericho and Owens both claimed they would win next week. Jericho said they would worry about it next week and then did the “it” routine with Phillips…
A shot aired of Charlotte and Dana Brooke walking backstage. Dana had a “Where’s The Boss?” sign that she crumpled up… [C] An ad for Smackdown focussed on AJ Styles beating John Cena at SummerSlam, and Nikki Bella returning…
Charlotte and Dana Brooke headed to the ring for a promo. The broadcast team spoke about Sasha’s lower back issue as they narrated still shots of the match. In the ring, Dana chanted “You Deserve It” for Charlotte. Funny. The fans booed. “Damn right, I deserve it,” Charlotte said before boasting that she’s the greatest female athlete in the world.
Charlotte said she exposed Sasha as being “all flash, no cash” at SummerSlam. Charlotte said she didn’t need her father or Dana to beat Sasha. Charlotte said Sasha’s injury proves she doesn’t have what it takes to carry the division. Charlotte said Sasha will never come after her title again. Charlotte said when and if she ever gets medically cleared, she should never come back because the queen has reclaimed her throne. Charlotte was about to leave the ring when Mick Foley came out.
[Q9] Foley said Charlotte was the better woman. The fans chanted for Bayley. Charlotte barked at them to “get over yourselves already.” Foley said Sasha will be granted a rematch when she returns. Charlotte said that if she does, she will break her back again. Charlotte said she deserves the night off because there’s no one left who is worthy of facing her.
Foley said there are aspects of his job that are difficult such as asking Balor to relinquish the title. He said there are also moments that bring him joy. Foley said he and Stephanie have signed the hottest free agent for the division.
Bayley’s theme played and she made her entrance to a big popo. The inflatable dudes were on the stage and the fans held up “Hugger Section” signs. The fans chanted for Bayley and sang “Hey, we want some Bayley” once she was in the ring.
“I can’t believe this is really happening,” Bayley said. The fans chanted “you deserve it.” Baley said she has been waiting for this moment her entire life and asked Foley to seal it with a hug…right here, in Brooklyn, New York. Foley and Bayley hugged.
Charlotte mocked the idea of Bayley being a hot free agent signing. Bayley said Charlotte knows she respects her and would never upstage her. “But what I will do is challenge you for that WWE Women’s Championship,” Bayley said. The fans chanted Yes! Charlotte said she wasn’t dressed for a match, but she taught her protege to be ready for a fight. Foley agreed to the match and said it was coming up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: I couldn’t be happier to see Bayley finally called up to the main roster. I just wonder if Vince McMahon even realizes how much money he left on the table by not calling her up sooner and rebooting her NXT storyline so that the entire WWE audience got to see the underdog story play out.
More SummerSlam still shots were shown..
5. Bayley vs. Dana Brooke (w/Charlotte). Charlotte’s distraction put Brooke in offensive control a couple minutes in. Bayley came back and performed a spinning elbow off the second rope, then hit the Bayley to Belly for the win…
Bayley defeated Dana Brooke in 4:25.
[Q10] After the match, Tom Phillips interviewed Roman Reigns backstage. Reigns assumed Jericho was running his mouth earlier and he would shut it with his scarf or with his fist… [C]
Powell’s POV: A solid debut for Bayley thanks mostly to how much the live crowd adores her. I wonder if she would have debuted earlier in the show if it hadn’t been for the Balor injury. You’d think they would want to have her out there earlier in the show to introduce her to younger viewers.
A video package aired on the cruiserweight division. Rich Swann, Noam Dar, Brian Kendrick, and TJ Perkins were featured in brief promo snippets. The graphic noted that the division arrives on Raw on September 19…
Backstage, Sheamus was interviewed by Andrea D’Marco about the second match of his best of seven series with Cesaro taking place next week. Sheamus said Cesaro is like Suicide Squad, full of hype yet he under delivers. Shemaus mocked all of the New York sports teams and said he’s actually going to be a winner unlike them…
6. Braun Strowman vs. Johnny Knockout. Saxton interviewed Knockout before the match and asked him why he was doing this. “Because I like big, sweaty men,” he replied. In a shocking twist, Strowman performed the reverse chokeslam for the win. Afterward, Strowman picked up Knockout and put him down with another power move and then made the referee count again…
Braun Strowman defeated Johnny Knockout in 1:20.
Cole hyped the Dudleys segment. Footage aired of their return one year ago… [C]
[Q11] The Dudley Boyz made their entrance and shook hands with the broadcast team before heading to the ring. Cole said they revolutionized tag team wrestling and are going out on top. In the ring, Bubba said he doesn’t get very emotional, but this might be different. He recalled returning to WWE a year ago in the same venue.
Bubba said it was a hell of a year with some ups and downs. He said sometimes fans loved them and hated them, but they knew the fans always respected them because they busted their asses for them for 20 years.
D-Von started to speak and the crowd chanted “testify.” D-Von said it’s been a hell of a year and a hell of a career. He said he’s been up and down the highway with Bubba creating history such as the TLC match. He mentioned Edge & Christian, and the Hardy Boys, who received a big pop.
D-Von said every ladder and every chairshot they took in that match he would do it again tonight. D-Von said WWE has always been his home and it always will be. He said there would be no Dudley Boyz without the WWE Universe. Bubba told the fans to stand up and give themselves a round of applause, and he thanked them.
Bubba said you don’t get to go out on your own terms in this industry. He said that while things didn’t always go they wanted this year, being able to say goodbye is on their own terms. D-Von delivered a “testify” that the crowd said along with him.
The Shining Stars made their entrance and said this was embarrassing. Primo said it was time for them to leave because they are all washed up. The fans chanted for tables. Epico said there would be no tables. Epico said they got the Dudleys a going away present – a trip to Puerto Rico.
Primo said he feels bad for the poor people who have to sit next to their ugly asses. The Dudleys finally attacked them and performed 3D on Epico. Bubba slammed Primo and then they performed the Whassup spot. Bubba had the crowd tell D-Von to get the tables.
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows hit the ring and attacked the Dudley Boyz before they could use the table. Anderson and Gallows performed the Magic Killer on Bubba on the floor. D-Von charged Anderson and Gallows, but they had the numbers and ended up putting him through the table with the Magic Killer. “Driving a stake through the career of the Dudley Boyz,” Cole said. Graves said that once upon a time the Dudleys would have done the same thing to a team in their way…
[Q12] Cole hyped Reigns vs. Jericho to determine the final entrant in next week’s four-way match for the vacant WWE Universal Championship…
Powell’s POV: Wow, no Bubba turn on D-Von to launch a singles run. Are they setting up a Dudleys vs. Anderson and Gallows match or was this really the swan song for the Dudleys in WWE? It was odd to hear D-Von heaping praise on WWE without mentioning ECW. It was even stranger to see the Shining Stars interrupt. Fortunately, the Anderson and Gallows attack was strong and the mic work of Graves were strong. Whether the Dudleys retirement is a work or shoot, the live crowd was really hot for them.
7. Roman Reigns vs. Chris Jericho to determine the final spot in the Fatal Four-Way for the WWE Universal Championship. A graphic noted that the winner would face Rollins, Owens, and Cass in the four-way next week. Reigns was booed heavily again. There were chants of “you can’t wrestle” and “yes, he can” directed at Reigns. Jericho was in control heading into the final break. [C]
Jericho remained in control coming out of the break. There was a loud Y2J chant. The “you can’t wrestle” chants started again. Reigns started to throw punches at Jericho and the fans booed.
[Overrun] At 9:00, Jericho caught Reigns with an enzuigiri for a two count. The fans chanted “Stupid Idiot.” Jericho leapt off the top rope into a punch from Reigns. Roman hoisted up Jericho, but Jericho slipped away, shot Reigns into the ropes, and elbowed him in the nose.
Jericho went for a Lionsault, but Reigns put his knees up. Reigns followed up with the Superman Punch and covered Jericho, who kicked out at two. Jericho went for a Codebreaker, but Reigns caught him with a sit-out powerbomb for another two count.
Reigns set up for a spear. Kevin Owens ran out and distracted Reigns briefly. Reigns went for a spear, but Jericho caught him and applied the Walls of Jericho. Reigns powered up and crawled to the bottom rope, which was greeted with boos.
Owens superkicked Reigns from the floor. Jericho hit the Codebreaker and then covered Reigns, who kicked out. Owens barked at the referee. Jericho got frustrated and started slapping at the face of Reigns, who returned the favor. Reigns took out Owens with a Superman Punch. Jericho rolled up Reigns, who rolled onto his feet and then speared Jericho for the win…
Roman Reigns defeated Chris Jericho in 15:00 to earn the final spot in the Fatal Four Way for the vacant WWE Universal Championship.
Powell’s POV: The closing minutes of the match were really fun. I don’t think the outcome was ever truly in doubt, but they did a nice job of delaying the inevitable and keeping it interesting. Overall, the three-hour marathon has some good moments. It was great to see Bayley debut, whatever the Dudleys are doing got over with this crowd, and the Jericho and Owens paring continues to be fun. I can’t say I’m excited to see a four-way match determine the new Universal Champion next week, but WWE is in a tough spot with Balor’s injury and a title belt that no one likes. In fact, I wonder if part of the reason they booked the match for next week is because the Houston fans may not get as caught up in hating the belt as the Brooklyn fans did last night. Of course, giving Reigns the win outside of Brooklyn is also a possible explanation. I will have more to say in Dot Net Member exclusive audio later tonight.
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The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...